When do children learn to read?

In this thread http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=541231 most people are saying that children shouldn’t be expected to learn their alphabet, numbers, etc. at 2 or 3.

This seems odd to me, because I have always been told that I was reading at age 2, and entered Kindergarten reading at 5th grade level. (I remember that much - Mrs. Barnhardt turned me on to Beverly Cleary, Scott O’Dell and E.B. White. She was awesome.) I’m not saying this to brag, but I honestly do not have any memories of not being able to read fluently. (If I really rack my brains, I vaguely recall from 1st grade or so that some of the kids didn’t know how to read yet, and I felt sorry for them.) I was also pretty much always on the “gifted” track, so the other kids around me were at a similar level.

So to the parents and teachers in the room, or to those who do remember the learning-your-letters-and-reading process…what is the usual age at which a child learns to read?

Most kids learn around age 5 or 6-ish. Like anything else, some kids learn earlier and some later.

I teach preschool (4-year-olds) and also work at an after-school program with Kindergarten-age kids. In my preschool program, we teach the letters and their sounds and do a lot with rhyming words ("What’s another word that rhymes with ‘cat?’) and beginning sounds ('Give me a word that starts with ‘B’). We use a method called Handwriting Without Tears, and despite the stupid name, it seems like a good program. The kids have workbooks, and we do a letter each week. It starts with easy straight letters, like L and H and E, and then move to curved letters, like C and U. The last ones are M and Z and Y. We go back and review the letters we’ve already done, too.

In the preschool, I have one child who can read simple books, and I know she’s really reading. She just turned 5 last month. In the after-school program (Kindergarten, ages 5-6), there are a quite a few who can read, and a few others who can read simple words.

Most of the kids at that age can read their own name, and a few other simple words, but they couldn’t sit down and actually read a whole book. They might be able to ‘read’ some parts, but a lot of that is from memorization, if Mom or Dad have read the same book to them frequently.

Reading at age 2? That would give me pause. A 2-year-old might recognize some words, but I can’t see a toddler reading.

Yes, 2 sounds incredibly early to be reading. Even recognising letters would be unusual then, in spite of the efforts of Sesame Street. (My parents told me that I started reading at 4).

I know this thread is going to end up as a smarty brag-fest, but I was reading at 3 and skipped kindergarten because of it, which IMHO was a terrible decision long term. Had all kinds of testing at the University. I clearly remember maybe half of the first graders not being good readers.

I started reading simple books at about 2 and a half. I remember my aunt took a college class in Children’s Lit, and after she was done she gave me her textbook, which had stories from all over the world. I remember reading it in all-day Kindergarten during naptime. I still have the book and can’t wait to read from it to my daughter.

My oldest (with whom I was obsessive-compulsive first-time Mommy) started reading on his own at 2-3. By that I mean he recognized simple words. When we drove down the street he would point out signs that said “Pizza” but could not sound out unfamiliar words or anything like that. Once I noticed that, I pushed reading onto him big-time and had him reading well before kindergarten, at high school level in grade school, and college level by middle school. He loves reading still and has always been so good at it.

My next child however was not interested in even trying to read, and I was a much more laid back Mommy by the time she came along (7 years later) and did not push her at all. (In retrospect I wish I had pushed a little because her late reading has always caused problems for her.) She could not read a word before kindergarten and in first grade was still only able to read the simplest words. She could recognize her first name but not her last name or any of our names, and I don’t know if it is related but she still has trouble spelling her middle name. She is 13 now, in the 8th grade and it has been an ongoing struggle for her. She hates to read and rarely does so for pleasure but will grudgingly read assigned work.

I myself do not know at what I age I began to read, but have always been above grade-level on standardized tests. I do not remember a time I couldn’t read or ever having any trouble with it.

As far as when they’re taught to read–it is in K-1st grade. In K, they learn the letters, sounds, and start practicing “sounding out” and recognizing sight words. In first grade, this is polished up with all the little rules like silent letters and blended sounds. Of course, there are always going to be kids who pick it up before formal education begins, as well as those who lag a bit behind classmates. Overall though, the standard (here in the US) is definitely 5-6 years old.

My youngest demonstrated his ability to read all of his letters and numbers at his 2-year well-child checkup, and our pediatrician remarked that this was highly unusual. She stressed “unusual” so much that I actually asked her if it was a sign that something could be wrong. She said, not necessarily; it’s just very unusual. So my pediatrician at least would seem to think that no, it is absolutely not normal for kids to be reading at age 2-3.

Whatsit the Youngest is the only one of mine that has known his letters that early. I mean, the kid is still barely talking. He’s just obsessed with letters. The older two both knew their letters around age 3ish, and learned to read around age 5 (Whatsit Jr.) and 4 (MiniWhatsit). Hm, now that I look at this, it seems that my kids are learning to read earlier and earlier. Perhaps if I had a fourth baby, it would learn how to read in utero. Sadly, the world will never find out.

My daughter started reading simple books at 5 years old. Stuff like “The fat cat sat on the mat”.

My son started reading at about 4 years old, but went to more complex storybooks immediately.

I’d say that’s on the high side of average, certainly not extreme. Both still went into AGP (sort of the local version of “gifted”, if you will). So neither is Einstein, will win any prizes for youngest reader on the Dope, but they’ll do fine. I can’t see how learning to read any younger would have helped either of them, although in general the boy is more of an avid reader than his sister.

I began to read at either four or five myself, not really sure. I don’t remember much of my life before four or five years old, anyway, so no loss.

I was reading at about four and a half, but nobody knows for sure when I actually started before that; I hadn’t really given any indication before that, I guess, that I was honestly reading and not just either recognizing individual words or memorizing or any of that stuff. I’m told it runs in my mother’s family, she and her sister and mother were all early readers as well. Nobody sat down and pushed me extra-hard, I just picked it up from here and there.

I can’t remember when I couldn’t read either.

My family tells me that I was reading (not just picking out single words, but actually reading)before the age of three – I don’t remember not reading, so I’ll take their word for it. My daughter also read before the age of three and was devouring books by the time she was five. Both my sons started reading simple words between four and five, but didn’t really do stories until they started first grade.

According to my wife the teacher, even the boys were still ahead of average.

My kids were all reading by kindergarten. They weren’t reading at a fifth-grade level, or even at a first-grade level, but they could sound out unfamiliar words and recognize quite a few, by the time they were 3 or 4.

I remember reading quite early. I also remember being quite flummoxed by a weird word that I couldn’t make any sense out of at all.

It was, “Once.”:cool:

I’m not a parent or teacher, but I am a librarian (although not a children’s librarian). My short answer would be that the typical age for children to learn to read is 5 or 6.

My long answer is that young children develop different skills at different rates and there’s not any one “right” age for a child to begin reading. There’s also not a clear line between reading and not reading; young children gradually develop “emergent literacy” skills and transition into “conventional literacy”. It is not typical for a 2 year old to be able to pick up a book and read it. Most 2 year olds do not even know all the letters of the alphabet, although some do. Children typically make big advances in their emergent literacy skills at ages 3-4. Most 4 year olds can recognize their own names and identify different letters as representing different sounds.

Some children are already sounding out whole words before kindergarten. Most others will develop this skill during kindergarten. By about age 6 most children have crossed over into the realm of conventional literacy. You could hand them a copy of an unfamiliar “early reader” book, say The Cat in the Hat, and they’d be able to read it aloud and understand it. It’s unusual for a 7 year old to not yet be able to read at this level, although some kids do just take a little longer.

Since most people have few memories before the age of 3 or 4, it’s unusual for people to remember much about the time before they had any literacy skills at all. I don’t remember ever not knowing the alphabet or not recognizing my own name, although obviously I wasn’t born knowing these things. I do remember being frustrated soon after I started kindergarten because we were covering the alphabet in class. I already knew the alphabet. I wanted to learn to READ BOOKS!

I didn’t get reading at first, just could not figure it out. This was some time prior to first grade. I was sent to a tutor for a couple lessons and all of a sudden it was like a light switch. To this day I can remember how fast of a turn around it was from being unable to read to reading whatever I wanted to. Keep in mind there were always a word here and there that I didn’t understand. Of course in those days my reading material consisted of Tintin and Asterix. Ever since then i have been way ahead of the curve of my classmates reading ability. In 6th grade our class was given a SAT and I placed post high school on all of the reading sections.

I certainly plan to introduce and teach any kids I may have to read.

That and to be unafraid to be curious and research whatever suits their fancy. I taught my GF this trick the year prior and she now looks up whatever she wonders about, instead of just figuring she wasnt meant to know.

I learned in kindergarten, but I’m certain I could have learned earlier–Mom says I came home one day utterly disgusted with the letter people, demanding to know what all that crap had to do with reading and within a week I was reading on my own.

My brother was reading before kindergarten, and between that and his raging undiagnosed ADD, he was utterly bored and disgusted with the whole school thing. Mom was determined not to go down that track again, so she threatened people with violence if they taught me anything.

I started learning when I was 6 and in first grade. That was the norm back then.

All we ever did in kindergarten was paste stuff, do folk dances and take naps.

I taught myself to read when I was three or four. The kicker…I have a genetic syndrome where according to the textbooks, I should be at best severely mentally delayed. I also am hard of hearing, and did not get aided until I was three. (and unfortunatly the delayed reading levels for dhh kids are still not exactly heartening)

I was desperate to learn to read before I was school age but didn’t figure it out on my own and somehow it didn’t occur to my parents that they could teach me themselves. I know when I entered school at age five, I hadn’t even learned my alphabet yet. Despite that, the following year I was reading Tales of Toyland by myself, to the amazement of my parents (who’d bought the book on sale thinking I’d appreciate it in a few years). I was not an exceptional student but I was very interested in books, and clearly I had a fair grasp on reading within a year or two of beginning to learn.

I have four kids who are (I imagine, never having had them tested etc) bang smack in the middle of the IQ bell-curve thingumagig.

The first three learned the rudiments of reading in the first year of school (aged about 5 here in Australia) with lots of supportive home-reading to increase their familiarity and skills. By the end of Grade 1/2, (aged 6-7) all three were able to read basic childrens books independently…sometimes with a bit of hesitancy with the bigger words, but able to get the gist of a story regardless.

With the fourth child I had very little time to help him with his reading at home. There were always books available, but I never saw him pick one up to read of his own volition either. The other kids were not interested in supporting his learning efforts, so the poor little bugger had to sink or swim.

By the end of Grade 1, he was able to read our daily local broadsheet newspaper, and by Grade 2 was helping me with my uni studies by dictating passages out of academic tomes for me to quote in my essays. :eek:

I dunno how he did it, certainly he had no help from the family, and school support for junior classes is rudimentary at best.

Whatever…he’s 21 now, and still a verbose little shit. :smiley:

I don’t get any particular bragging rights here, since my daughter started reading at the normal time (5-6 … start of school) - however, I have a nephew who started reading at just gone 2, so I got some first hand insight into the character of at least one early reader.

The thing about the nephew was that he was relly REALLY keen on lists, and order and symbols. They tore through the alphabet and numbers fairly quickly, then had to cast around for other sets of lists to satisfy his craving - I think the Greek alphabet was next, and I know they got into the periodic table at one stage. Totally driven by him - his parents weren’t cramming him at all, he just loved that stuff. By his third birthday his reading was up to what I’d say was about ordinary 6-year-old level.

Interestingly, though, his general language skills were not at all advanced - nor were motor skills or social skills … he was channeling so much of his concentration into reading and writing. Later on he started catching up in other areas.

I also have a friend who started recognising letters at 18-months (apparently - I wasn’t there :)) who was also reading well by three. She was adamant that she did not want her daughters to be early readers, because it set up expectations of being a genius that she couldn’t fulfil, being just an ordinary bright kid. No such luck - they both followed her example. It must be genetic…